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EDITORIAL: Flight of irresponsibility - keep kids out of tower

Here's something you might think would go without saying: Kids shouldn't direct air traffic. But it happened. Now that the Federal Aviation Administration has made that policy very clear, the agency should look hard at making permanent its temporary ban on unofficial visitors in air traffic control operational areas.

There shouldn't be any replays of the astounding "what was he thinking" incident in February, when a veteran air traffic controller from Stony Brook had his 7-year-old twin son and daughter join him in the control tower at John F. Kennedy Airport and mimic his radio instructions to pilots taxiing in preparation for takeoff.

The impulse to show the kids where Dad works is understandable. But not if it's a high-stakes, high-stress environment where a loss of focus could spell the difference between life and death. An air traffic control tower is no place to baby-sit kids on a school break. Even on their best behavior, young kids demand attention. That's a distraction for controllers and maybe disconcerting for some pilots. The controller and a supervisor are on administrative leave while FAA officials investigate this "lapse in judgment" that not only violated FAA's own policies but common sense. And since unauthorized visitors of any age can be distracting, prohibiting them permanently may make sense, too.

Air travelers rely on unseen professional traffic controllers to keep them safe. It's a job for grown-ups. hN


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